News – Look ahead to 2022

Listed below are some of the legislative developments which we may see in 2022 and beyond (Government time permitting) :-

  1. Gender pay gap reporting

    Since 2017, employers with 250 or more employees have been obliged to publish an annual report containing data on their gender pay gap. Due to the pandemic, enforcement of the reporting deadline this year for both public and private sector organisations was extended by six months to 5 October 2021.

    In 2022, deadlines are expected to revert to the normal timescales which for private sector employers and voluntary organisations would be 4 April 2022 with a “snapshot” date of 5 April 2021.
  2.  Workplace sexual harassment

    On 21 July 2021, the Government published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment, which was launched in July 2019.

    It confirms that the Government will introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and new protections from third-party harassment, “when parliamentary time allows”. It is also “looking closely” at whether to extend the time limits for bringing any claim from the current 3 months to 6 months.

    A new statutory code of practice will be published to support the duty to prevent sexual harassment, along with accessible guidance for employers. It is likely that this new duty, as well as protections from third-party harassment, will apply subject to an ‘all reasonable steps’ defence. It has yet to be confirmed when this new duty is likely to take effect; draft legislation to implement the new duty has not yet been published, but is anticipated in 2022.
  3. New right to carer’s leave

    In September 2021, the Government published its response to the consultation on carer’s leave, confirming that it plans to legislate an entitlement to carer’s leave for employees as a ‘day one’ right.

    The leave will consist of one week (up to 5-working days) of unpaid leave per year for those employees with long-term caring responsibilities, to be taken in full or half days. The leave can be taken to provide care, or arrange care, for a person with a long-term care need, such as an illness or injury or issues relating to old age. Employees will be required to give notice that is at least twice the length of the time being requested as leave, plus one day.

    This new right is likely to be included in a forthcoming Employment Bill (see below).
  4. Tips and gratuities

    The Government has confirmed its intention to include measures in the anticipated Employment Bill to ensure that workers in the hospitality sector retain tips on a fair and transparent basis. Employers will be required to have a written policy on tips and keep a record of how tips are dealt with. There will also be a new statutory Code of Practice on Tipping for employers to have regard to, which will replace the existing voluntary code.
  5. Neonatal leave and pay

    The Government has confirmed its intention to introduce statutory neonatal leave and pay for parents of babies requiring neonatal care. This commitment was reiterated by the Government in March 2021.

    Parents will have the right to take an additional week of leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. It is likely that the leave will have to be taken in a continuous block of one or more weeks. Those with a minimum qualifying period of 26 weeks’ service and who earn above the minimum pay threshold will be entitled to receive pay for the neonatal leave period at the current statutory rate.
  6. Right to request flexible working

    Consultation has been published on proposals to extend the existing right to request flexible working from ‘day one’ of employment. The consultation is seeking views on how to make flexible working the ‘default position’, which was a manifesto commitment by the Government in 2019.

    The consultation makes it clear that while the Government’s ambition is to make flexible working the default position in the workplace, it is not considered practical or desirable to remove the employer’s ability to turn down a request. It will remain a ‘right to request’ on the part of the employee, to initiate a conversation between employer and employee on how to make a flexible working arrangement work.

    The consultation closed for responses on 1 December 2021. It is likely that any statutory amendments that are confirmed following this consultation will be included in the anticipated Employment Bill (see below).
  7. New single labour market enforcement body

    On 8 June 2021, the Government published its view concerning the proposal to create a single enforcement body, confirming that the body will bring the following three existing bodies into one organisation with extensive powers to protect employment rights and improve employers’ compliance:
    • HMRC National Minimum Wage Enforcement
    • Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI)
    • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
    The body will have a particular focus on protecting workers in relation to labour exploitation and modern slavery, national minimum wage, holiday pay and statutory sick pay. Statutory provisions for the creation of the new enforcement body are likely to be included in the Employment Bill (see below).
  8. Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents

    The Government confirmed in 2021 its intention to extend the redundancy protection period currently afforded to mothers on maternity leave in the forthcoming Employment Bill (see below).

    It is proposed that protection will apply to pregnant women from the point they notify their employer of their pregnancy until 6 months after a mother has returned to work and will also apply to those taking adoption and shared parental leave.
  9. Employment Bill

    In December 2019, a new Employment Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech, but it has yet to be published and was notably absent from the May 2021 Queen’s Speech. The Government has since indicated that the Bill will be forthcoming “when parliamentary time allows”.

    It is anticipated that the Employment Bill will be published at some point in 2022. The measures expected to be included in the Bill are wide-ranging and will include those highlighted above and probably others for which further consultation is required, such as the right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service, for those with variable and unpredictable hours.

    Timescales for the measures in the Bill to take effect are not yet confirmed, but we anticipate that some may be introduced later in 2022 and into 2023.